The legal industry is witnessing a rising adoption of agile working and the benefits that it can bring. Whether that means being able to work remotely, adjustable work hours, being able to step out of the office to attend to a private matter, or even a physical relocation within the working environment; the trend is to be innovative, flexible and accepting of agile working..
Whilst the most obvious benefit of flexibility is greater work-life balance for the employee, it also helps employers attract and retain talent whilst improving productivity. A recent Stanford study in China showed that letting employees work from home increased productivity by 13% and reduced turnover by 50%. When dedication is shown to staff, it is little surprise to see that the level of commitment to the job, sense of appreciation and productivity have all increased.
Key to most relationships in life is honesty, and work is no exception. An honest conversation with your employer is key to maintaining positive mental health. Frank and open discussions about the expectations from both parties help to facilitate what is required from the employee and the employer. Where for example, an employee becomes a new parent, the flexible working conditions can help the baby bond with the parent and also facilitate the work being done, albeit not from within the office.
Something to be taken into consideration however, before a remote agile policy is adopted, is that by not being in the office – the nucleus of communication – both professional and informal, there is a risk of a sense disconnection and, if not managed carefully, working remotely can be very isolating. A recent survey performed by Thomson Reuters of more than 2,000 managers and employees in 10 different countries found that employees will work harder if they have a sense of connection. For this reason, it is important to train employees and leaders internally to manage remote consultants and remote employees. It is not just a matter of facilitating technology and changing internal policies, the company culture needs to adjust.
One employer looking to do things differently and move away from the traditional law firm set up is Shoosmiths. Head of Manchester and head of Real Estate, Vaqas Farooq, shared his insight on the firm’s new initiative: ‘lawyers are traditionally accused of being siloed, but lawyers need to come together, and if we can give them the IT solution and design layout solution, we’ll help them do that.’
The Shoosmith solution has seen the firm create a series of “neighbourhoods” within their Manchester office – each neighbourhood representing an area of the firms practice, but each desk is not assigned to a specific lawyer. Additionally, there are desks in “neutral zones” such as the project room, the garden and the library. The firm’s “hot desks” engender a sense of mobility and increased collaboration between the teams. Although this form of agile working is within the same office building, it breaks with tradition to stimulate ideas and promote physical interaction rather than sending an email to a colleague who may be only a matter of metres away.
While agile working may not suit neither every industry sector, nor every firm, it can be argued that the adoption promotes increased wellbeing, a better work-life balance, increased productivity and reduced staff turn-over, while facilitating a more stable working environment. For those individuals that can make it work, a wealth of positivity can be harnessed in this world where small margins can make big differences.